Driven: 2018 Honda Accord Touring

Published January 23, 2018 – 9:31am
Last Updated January 23, 2018 – 9:32am

Our 2018 Honda Accord Touring tester was powered by its 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, turbo engine. (JUSTIN PRITCHARD)
Our 2018 Honda Accord Touring tester was powered by its 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, turbo engine. (JUSTIN PRITCHARD)

For the next few years, the new-for-2018 Honda Accord will carry Honda’s presence, once again, into the family-sedan marketplace.

There’s something that Honda just gets “right” about this machine every time they re-do it and that changes from generation to generation. After a week at the wheel in the latest Accord, it seems like the right recipe this time around is cooked up around a fantastic driveline, as well as some of the most user-friendly high-tech on the scene today.

The cabin in my Touring-grade tester set the stage with a partially-digital instrument cluster, a wide-screen central command touch interface with Android Auto, a nearby wireless charging pad, and a head up display, which looks markedly better than one I recently used in a $185,000 BMW.

Signs of the times include numerous high-output USB charging ports and the inclusion of virtually every outward-looking hazard detection system available on this side of a fighter jet. Accord’s Honda sensing technology analyzes your driving environment for possible threats, like an elevated collision risk, cars in your blind spot, an unintended lane departure and more.

The new interior is Accord’s most lavish and upscale yet, with matte wood trim, gorgeous after-dark illumination, detailed aluminum trim, and a multitude of elements that wouldn’t look or feel out place in a car costing 15 grand more. There are new interfaces. New graphics. New details, like knobs and buttons, that click precisely like a computer mouse.

Thankfully, the cabin also maintains a few elements that many owners have appreciated in former Accord generations. These include heaps of nearby storage for smaller items via clever bins and cubbies, along with adequate or greater room for four adults, generous rear seats and a strong horizontal element to the dash design which visually pumps up the sense of width and space.

All said, it’s a tidy, well laid-out, formal, thoughtful and spacious driving environment.

Importantly, it’s also remarkably easy to use the high-tech — and that’s even if you haven’t bought a new car in a while and find much of this newfangled gadgetry a bit overwhelming. Controls and interfaces and menus are straightforward, a cinch to navigate, and you get little tool-tips that pop up via the partially-digital instrument cluster, helping guide you along in many cases. It’s more high-tech than an Accord has ever been, but also, very easy to get comfortable with.

Honda’s new 1.5-litre, turbo, four-cylinder engine is standard, with horsepower and torque rated at 192 apiece. Peak torque arrives from just 1,600 revs, allowing the engine to perform very well from very low revs compared to a non-turbo four-cylinder with similar output. Expect big low-end responsiveness and admirable get up and go while using minimal revs and fuel. Plus, less revs means less noise and vibration. Here’s a refined and effortless powerplant which feels most impressive when operated gently.

The CVT transmission has no gears to shift, further helping the engine run at lower revs more of the time, enhancing refinement and saving more fuel.

A six-speed stick is available, as is a larger two-litre turbo four-cylinder engine as the up-level powerplant, if you like. The V6 from the last-generation Accord is toast.

Test-driving shoppers will likely note a nice balance between sporty tautness and overall comfort in the ride quality department. The shocks are slightly firm, with a layer of softness around the edges of their travel that ensures the ride is never jarring or jagged, and that it rarely crashes into bumps. It’s athletic, not uncomfortably so. The rigidity of the body structure also stands out — hit a bump or pothole and the car feels super-strong, like it’s hewn from cast titanium.

Brakes flaunt strong bite from the first bit of pedal, and near sports-car precision, without feeling too touchy. There’s lots of confidence imparted when drivers need to get stationary in a hurry.

There’s also lots of confidence from the headlights. The LED-fired units are top-notch, with plenty of white, bright light output sent far and wide up the road. This is top-of-the-line lighting performance and it’s standard on all trim grades.

Still, I think this car just has three problems. First, in loaded Touring grade like the tester, pricing lands at the better part of $36,000, which is a tad steep. Second, I don’t find this is a great looking machine. Distinctive, yes. Attractive? Maybe not. Third, road noise levels were a measure higher than expected, though the tester’s winter tires may have been partly to blame.

Of course, you’re mostly buying an Accord for the sensible stuff — safety, resale value, reliability and fuel mileage. And on those fronts, this machine should be considered a priority test drive, especially if you’re after one of the best powertrains and some of the best technology currently on offer in the segment.

The specs

Model: 2018 Honda Accord Touring
Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo
Drivetrain: front-wheel drive
Observed mileage: 8.6L/100km
Transmission: continually variable transmission (CVT)
Features: Android Auto, automatic climate control, push-button start, wireless charging pad, automatic lights, lane keeping system, radar cruise control, heated leather
What’s hot: easy-to-use tech, plenty of room, comfy and sporty ride, feels solid and robust, excellent lights, excellent powertrain
What’s not: styling not for everyone, gets pricey with options, higher-than-expected noise levels at speed
Price as tested (Accord Touring 1.5) $35,790